It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
I never thought it come to this but desperate times call for desperate measures. Thanks for reading, and to any who used my work for term papers and such. I hope you got good grades.
Category Archives: MacDougal St
It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
It’s a beautiful day as I rise early and find myself sitting on the train heading for New York City for a re-do of the Greenwich Village/Soho self-guided tour I did last year, tomorrow is Memorial Day and a barbeque will keep me busy half the day so today is just for me. I saw this morning before I left that my French “Haricot Vert” string beans have poked their heads up out of the ground, as well as some “Babette” carrots, in a week I will be planting Heirloom tomatoes as well as Thai basil and some Mervielle lettuces, a diverse group of plantings this year. This is a quiet car filled with perhaps sleepy people like myself ( I had one too many glasses of wine last night) who probably needed a few more hours of shut-eye, just the rhythmic pattern of the wheels on the track to hear. But soon the relative quiet is broken by a guy who gets a call on his cell phone. He loudly tells the person on the other end that he’s “out pretty far” (we just passed Mineola next we’ll be out of Nassau County and into Queens County) and he won’t get there till about 10:00 o’clock. I’m guessing that he would consider my little town close to the “bush” and the East End of Long Island; with its farms and vineyards a step back in time. We pass a big brick building with faded lettering you can just make out Rull Coal & Ice, it’s funny to think that before modern refrigerators, people used ice boxes and that company delivered blocks of ice that slowly melted into a drip pan under the fridge that had to be emptied periodically, and heating with coal too was a sooty mess until the modern oil burner was available to everyone, we take for granted our modern conveniences like refrigeration and electric stoves.
Lately, I have been voraciously reading a series of books written by Peter Mayle documenting the transition with his wife from bustling Londoners to country bumpkins in Provence, France. The first book “A Year in Provence” is a funny look into the purchase of a 200-year-old farm-house and the trials and joys of restoring it and the property to the glory of a working farm while they learn about how things are done in a place very different from London or New York. I highly recommend these books. The fame it brought him in France with several more books like Toujours Provence, French Lessons, Encore Provence, etc is immeasurable and he has also written a few fictional novels set in places like Provence, Paris, Spain, etc which I haven’t read yet. The latest one involves the heist of a cache of wine and is a chase /action read, a good “caper” book. So I have a new hero to worship, a man who lives the life I would love and has made a fortune doing what he loves to do.
Speaking of hero’s my old pal Anthony Bourdain got himself in a little hot water with his Republican fans on a talk show called Anderson Cooper where he refered to the Tea Party members as a “bunch of angry white men” and compared them to the prejudiced men of the sixties who opposed Martin Luther King and his followers. The reaction from fans was that about seven people said they wouldn’t watch the show anymore or participate in the discussions. Well that’s funny because at least one of them called himself “usedtowatch” and had only posted once! Which means he never participated in the first place and that was his first and final post! This particular group seems to want to go back to the way things were when good ol Georgie W was in the White House and the Republicans had control for eight more years of war for profit, a tanking economy, and people losing their homes and jobs while the fat cats just grew more wealthy. So I wouldn’t worry Tony (not that you are) you don’t need them anyway.
I get out at Penn Station and go down to the subway station, it’s amazing how few people are around compared to other days. I take a quick glance at the subway map and that’s where the best laid plans of mice and men start to go astray. It was supposed to be easy just take the subway up to 42nd st and then take the 7 over to the 456 line and take it down to West 4th street. But I got my signals crossed and was leading myself to the Lower East Side again instead of the West Side. I get out at Spring St and realize my mistake, in my overconfidence and slightly hungover tiredness I have given myself a chore to walk over to my starting point on the other side of Manhattan! So I begin my walk and while I do I stop to read menus posted for today in restaurant window’s. It being Sunday many places are offering brunch, and as I read one to the other I begin to notice that no matter what the cusine, brunch consists of the same food no matter where you go! The humble omelette, French toast, bacon and eggs (any style), Granola with fruit, hot oatmeal and coffee or tea is the food du jour of today with no variation or anything to make it interesting or different. I could easily make any of this at home with my eyes closed standing on one foot! Well… maybe with one eye open. I really get mad at myself when I find that I’m all the way down on Canal St going in the wrong direction! Now I have to pull out the map and get my bearings again, I turn the map so I can see exactly where I am and decide to try for Thompson St as that will be the most direct route.
I walk along in the warm sun cursing myself for screwing up and quickly realize that it will be hot, I’m starting to think I should just go back home, I mean I’m just not on my game today. I remember Peter Mayle’s references to the unbearable heat of August in Provence, a time when many leave the region for cooler points north and those that stay do little or nothing! I zig zag keeping to the shaded sides of the streets like Tony Bourdain did in Provence Episode of “No Reservations” until I come to Thompson St and take it north to Washington Square Park. I see the fountain is in full operation shooting water high in the sky turning off I walk to Macdougal Street to find food. I have had nothing all day except for decaf coffee and I need to eat, maybe a good breakfast at home was the way to go, but dad was up and I can’t abide morning news at max volume. I like my mornings quiet and thoughtful.
I feel at home on this street, it has been the subject of many a story of mine as walk down looking over at the Cafe Reggio, all tables taken out front so I continue on walking past Meskerem, the Eithiopian place where I had a lunch years ago. I walk a little further and see an unexpected sight, the old Minetta Tavern that closed down over a year ago is all clean and polished and the door is open! I quickly cross the street to find it offering a brunch and open for business! I walk in and am immediately greeted by two people at once and as I look around I feel as if I stepped back in time. Black and white alternating floor tiles harken back to my parents days and then some, good wood all around on the bar and wainscot , walls covered in hand drawn portraits of the stars who ate here in a bygone era. My waiter a nice middle-aged man takes my order of decaf coffee and suggests the special, a omelette with goat cheese, chanterelle mushrooms and asparagus served with frites and leaves me to make a decision, so when he comes back I decide to order the special and add an appetizer of duck hash. Then I go to the loo for a wash up and put myself right for my meal. When I emerge from the bathroom a man in a smart suit says brightly “Just in time sir your food has just been laid out for you.” So I thank him and sit down to tuck in, the duck hash is beautiful big pieces of meat and redskin potatoes fried till golden in a little duck fat with a confit of onion. My omelette is small but delicious with bright green asparagus cut in small pieces easy to chew with chewy chanterelles and goat cheese my new favorite thing and a huge mass of frites, honestly I would have rather had a field green salad instead of fries but that would be extra. My waiter comes over and asks if I’m enjoying my meal and I look up and say ” The only thing that would do this justice is a glass of house red.” He nods and gets me a glass and a small pour to try, now this has never happened to me before. I swirl and sniff and taste, it is good enough for me so he pours me a glass and I happily sip away washing down mouthfuls of food while listening to the man in the nice suit tell two staff about his humble beginnings, I can’t hear everything he says above the music which is an awesome mix of Parisian Cafe, old American standards and more modern rock. But he talks about going to chef school, spending time in France and coming to New York.
Indeed he speaks French with a cute blonde bartender in her late twenties as he moves about the room checking on me as well. When I’m about half done he comes over and picking up my wine glass gently he apologizes but says he has to take it away, when I ask why he tells me that due to a stupid law they can’t serve alcohol before noon, but he promises to bring it back full and free as soon as the clock strikes 12:00. He tells me that the waiter didn’t know that which I find hard to believe, but I won’t argue with a man who is promising free wine. I pick at my food and wait the ten minutes nessesary to get my wine back which he laughingly brings with a smile, somehow I think they were just treating me special because I came in so stressed, sweaty and having a bad day that they wanted to do something nice without making it obvious. I ask the waiter about the history of the place and he tells me a little the rest I found myself.
Minetta Tavern was opened in the 1937 and was named after the Minetta Brook that ran southwest from 23rd St to the Hudson River. The original owner retired in 2008 so the restaurant entrepreneur Keith McNally along with Executive Chefs Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr who have worked together on three of New York city’s best, Pastis, Balthazar, and Schiller”s then decided to partner on this new venture and after closing for complete overhaul of the guts of the place re-opened in 2009 to rave reviews. They kept the original pictures on the walls and the old boxing murals in the back dinning area and restored it to its original look from long ago, now you can feel the spirits of Eugene O’Neill, Ernest Hemingway, Dylan Thomas, and the famous Bohemian Joe Gould, with a little Frank Sinatra thrown in from the days when it was Italian all the way. Now it is considered a French Bistro, Italian influenced Steakhouse featuring the famous Black Label Burger a sinfully delicious burger made with prime cuts and dry aged beef coming in at $26, and a Cotes du Boeuf for two at $104 served with marrow bones and salad to mention a few. The staff is great and treat me well, right now I’m the only one here but now that it’s after noon people start to come in and sit down while others make reservations for tonight. I love it here, it just goes to show me again that good things come from bad starts. I’ve had a good time in a small space and can go home happy with my discovery.
I stop the guy in the suit and say to him “Your one of those famous people from the food industry aren’t you?” He laughs and says not really. “What’s your name?” I ask extending my hand. “Arnold Grossman” he says shaking my hand and asks me for my name. I tell him about myself and my work on WordPress and he is suitably impressed so I give him my web address for WP and he thanks me saying he will check it out. My waiter comes over and asks me if I want dessert but I decline and ask for more wine instead, wishing only to write and keep the moment alive as more and more people come. They are so busy at night, they are turning people away and reservations are hard to come by, but my waiter assures me if I arrive at 5:30 sharp when they start dinner service he can get me a table. This is a trendy place where it’s possible to meet celebs almost any night, a place to see and be seen. I have to come back cleaned up and better dressed for dinner I think as I sit and write and finish my wine. I am sooo happy I came here, this is the life for me! I pay my tab and leave refreshed and relaxed.
I walk down to Washington Square Park and take some video of the fountain and the musicians, people are everywhere enjoying the sun. Some are laying out in bathing suits and others just sit and read or talk, people jog or pedal past you as your eyes take in the swirl of colors around you and you see a pretty face, an old black man, a toddler with daddy, a serious hipster looking for someone while on their cell phone. The stories they all must have to tell about themselves boggle the mind and bring out the journalist in me. Who are they?, Why are they here?, What do they want from life? I begin to wander in the general direction of my starting point, the wine is working on me just a little, just enough to feel light and fluffy like a piece of Angel Food cake that has been dusted with crack. I’m kidding of course, by roundabout ways I come to find Warehouse Wine and Spirits featuring the most extensive selection of French wine I have ever seen. It’s mind boggling really as I wander around reading labels and checking prices. I soon find myself talking to the owner who came from Nimes in the south of France at 19 and although he goes back for visits he has made his life here. I tell him of my love for Paris and France in general and my desire to travel to Provence, he too knows Peter Mayle’s books very well. I say “I wish I had $1000 to spend and a team of mules to take it home!” and he says to me that “People come from as far away as Florida with a U-Haul to stock up because my prices are so good.” He bids me a “Merci” and goes about his work in the busy store, I get a business card to take with me. I will be back…soon. Now all I need is a wine cellar and I’ll be all set. I walk a few more streets and find a kitchen store called the Broadway Panhandler filled with an amazing array of pots and pans and every tool a chef could want, I look at copper pots that delight me with their shine and depress me with their prices, I can see why they chain them to the wall. I enjoy wandering around in the cool space and look at everything. I almost buy some nice cheese plates but decide that I don’t want to carry them home so I buy a cheese knife with a phony wine cork handle to take home. I always liked souveniers, it’s the kid in me I guess.
Leaving the store I need a loo so I walk down to the Au Bon Pain, a chain of coffee, pastry, soup and sandwich shops that we have all over and after a wash I get a decaf and a little lemon tartlette and sink into a comfy chair by the window and read the latest Village Voice and watch the world go by. I read an article about the life and death of Coney Island, such a tragic and sordid history for a parcel of land so dear to so many. There’s a movie or a play there somewhere I just know it…I wish I had more time and money and was also a better writer, there is something deep and artsy and powerful to be made. I just don’t know how to go about it…yet.
I’m a little tired now, it’s 2:45 and I think I should head back home. The sun is hot as I walk up to 14th st and I stop to buy a small coconut ice, a rare treat as these vendors usually are found only in Brooklyn or so I’m told by a friend. Then moving through the crowds in Union Square market I make my way down to the subway and wait for a local train, it’s stuffy and hot so I wait for a second train when the first one comes in loaded like a sardine can. The next one comes a few minutes later and I get on, at least I can sit down on this one! I get off on 33rd St and move topside. Soon I am walking past vendors of every description, selling everything from Cd’s to fresh mangos on a stick to cold water and sugared nuts hot out of the pan, and let me tell you they are doing a heck of a business today I can hardly get past the squeeze of people and get to my destination. I squint in the glare of a late afternoon sun as a young guy gets an airbrushed tatoo on his bicep-something to show off at school next week I guess, but it will rub off with time. The entrance to Penn Station is a welcome sight and I descend into it’s cool air and see my old watering hole Tracks in the distance, it’s familiar blue logo pulsating as I walk toward it. I decide to skip a beer as I have only sixteen minutes to get to my train, so instead I walk down to a new Papaya King I spotted earlier this morning. It’s where I can get a simple good thing. A 20 oz papaya juice drink, cold, fresh and frothy… it’s just what I need right now. So I walk down through growing mobs heading home to track 17 and find an express train, only two stops till mine. I sit and write on the train as we move along, stopping at Jamaica Station I see the airtrain leaving for Kennedy Airport and wonder when I’ll be boarding a plane for England or France again. It all seems like a dream now, being so far away and so free.
In these quiet moments always think great thoughts about rising above my bad habits, and turning over a new leaf. But in my day to day life it’s not so easy, to be so many things to so many people wears on me and I turn to food and wine for comfort and enjoyment and escape. Unfortunately I have been a bit of an ogre lately at home, work has been like a funeral procession where the mourners are all angry and just had it with everything too, and sometimes I bring that home with me. Except of course the owner who is happy to be alive and doing so well in a bad economy. But if you ask for a rise there’s no surprise their giving none away. My Mom is always saying be happy you have a job and there is no doubt that being unemployed would be hell right now. So I have to keep looking and working on my angles for getting out and doing something else, in the meantime I have much to do and little time. Today might have been screwed up and hot but I made some more contacts, people who will know my name and what I do, I’ll make sure of that.
I might complain often and some might say too much. But in my busy world the time lapse between these trips of mine feel like a year apart, I know that sounds strage to some folks but it’s the way time moves for me. On balance I had a good time today. Despite all the foulups I made the most of things. A trip back in time, a coconut ice and cool fruit juice…
At the end of the day that’s all you can hope for.
Well today is an auspicious occasion, I am heading into Manhattan to meet two of my relatives from England who are here on holiday, I search for a legal parking space but none are available, so I park with dozens of others in an illegal spot and hope for the best. I walk to the station, get my ticket and a coffee, and let me tell you it’s cold. I mean I remember days in December warmer than this, luckily the train comes in a few minutes. I get on and have to stand in the crowded rush hour train, across from me an Asian guy devours a bagel with cream cheese like it’s his last meal. He takes big bites while texting and drinking his coffee off the floor, a tradition inspired by the lack of cup holders on board. A good thing I guess because trains are sticky enough. I’m late because of my parking ordeal and I’m really annoyed that we have to buy a permit to park, even the outer mall parking lot nearby is being taken over as railroad parking. More money for the county, parking permits or tickets for that matter and more regulation of free space and time. When the revolution begins, I’ll be on the front lines.
There’s a couple of cute moms with kids a few rows away and every few minutes a chorus of loudly repeated words like a yes/no fight erupts between the kids causing the moms to shush them over and over. The mom facing me is wearing jeans and shiny black boots, she’s got a cute smile and I like the way she plays with her hair as she talks to her friends. I catch her blue eyes noticing me noticing her and she reddens a bit, enjoying the attention. More people get on as we stop at stations, they still haven’t checked tickets yet. Maybe a free ride this time for us standing anyway. The kids are fussing now and cute mom hugs her daughter, a cute moment…it would be a great painting if I had a photo to work from. We slowly come in to Jamaica Station, some people will get off here but I don’t think I’ll get a seat anyway. The train leaves the station and we are speeding along now, soon I will feel the descent of the train into the tunnels under the water, into Manhattan’s underground catacomb of rail systems.
I get off the train with a sense of urgency, I know I’ll be late but the traffic makes getting a cab impossible, I mean the line is long for one thing so I walk at a brisk pace to Sofitel on W 44th St, to find Sharon standing outside waiting for me. She quickly takes me inside to find my cousin Mark who was trying to ring our house to see where I was. Then after a trip back upstairs to get a jacket we sit down in the lobby to catch up on things, I haven’t seen them since our first meeting in 2005 when my family and I went to England and France at an all too brief family reunion party. We leave the beautiful hotel, which is nicer than any I’ve ever seen, and begin a trek in the cold windy city greeted with brief snow showers and then raindrops. This is hardly what I wished for them on their first trip to New york, but they might as well discover now that the Big Apple never quite lets you forget who’s boss. It’s like a man once said… you come to New York the first time and she beats you up some and you run away with your tail between your legs, then you lick your wounds and you come back, because you learn to love it.
I’ve never done this before so I’m a little nervous, I’d like to be a wealth of information but mostly I travel by the seat of my pants, it’s better that way…you find things you might have missed otherwise. But these folks have travelled a long way so every minute counts, and I don’t want to let them down. We walk to Grand Central Station to catch the subway to the Village, all the way chattering like magpies about everything, getting to know each other. The funny thing is I feel like I know them already, I might be nervous about doing a good job but I’m totally comfortable with them as people, they are very likable and kind and we get on thick as thieves from the start. They are well travelled but a little unsure about New York, the sheer size of it is daunting to them and I can understand, I’ve been to the city dozens of times but still can get turned around easily, the city is intimidating. I bring them down and show them the subway explaining the green and red lines that can get you uptown and downtown, the cross over lines and so forth. We get out at Union Square so they can see the city, I know the market is not in full swing on weekdays but want them to see it anyway, and then we are off in search of a loo and they want drinks! Now I am taken aback and look at my cell phone and say “It’s only 11:30! smiling at them. Mark smiles and says “Yes but were on vacation! And so are you! I smile and say “Yes I guess your right then, OK lets see what we can find” I think because I’m home I didn’t feel it at first but I am on vacation and it feels good. We find both needs at Patsy’s on University Place, not necessarily the one that Frank Sinatra frequented but so what it’ll do. We sit down for a beer and talk, they want to know everything about New York?, how many people live here?, how many square miles is it?, how far is it to my town from here?, the distance to Kennedy Airport?, how many people live in Hicksville? But I’m afraid I don’t know these things, I feel a little stupid but in my daily life I don’t need this information, but I will find out for the future.
We move on to our breakfast destination, stopping to look at my map a kind woman stops and asks us where we need to go. I tell her it’s OK I live here, just getting my bearings and off we go to find the Washington Arch by way of the Washington Mews, a cobblestone street that used to be horse stables but was turned into affordable housing for the artists, writers and poets who occupied the apartments there, Edward Hopper had a place there before moving to larger quarters a block away. The mews are all painted in beautiful colors in the French tradition and have flower boxes and a tree or two for shade. We exit the mews and turn left to find the Arch itself, I show them the door and tell them the story of Marcel Duchamp and friends on top of the Arch (covered in the story Greenwich Village on an earlier page here) and we look at the new construction as we make our way down to MacDougal Street which is been dug up for resurfacing. We sit down then in Cafe Reggiro, the oldest cafe still in use in NYC. My family likes the quaint old world decor and the 90 works of art that adorn it’s walls. It’s very dark inside adding to the mystery of the place, you feel the ghosts of the Village wandering the room, people like Mabel Dodge, Jig Cook, Susan Glaspell and others…names known only to the few that walk in the old world of Village life. We eat a small simple brunch, tuna sandwich for Mark, Capri tomatoes and cheese for Sharon, and eggs Benedictine for me and coffee all around. It’s tasty and affordable fare, and after getting our picture taken together. We wander back towards the 6Th Ave subway in a roundabout fashion, passing the leather shop where I always buy my wallets, a small community park, a small alley street getting a makeover where they see a subterranean apartment “that is prime real estate here” I tell then as we pass. Then I take them down Bleeker till we get to 6th again and I see that they are getting tired so we go back into the subway and get out at Grand Central and go past a great rock violinist and later a classical guitarist to get topside.
They would like to find a liquor store and to get some crisps as they call them, chips for us-specifically Pringles, Ranch flavor which for some reason is unavailable in England but Mark always brings plenty back. But first we need a loo again and some more drinkies, so we find Mulligan’s Pub and settle down for Stella Artois for the boys and Bacardi and coke for Sharon. We talk for over an hour talking about the family history and Sharon’s medium like psychic experiences. This is the time I enjoy the most, the long comfortable chats about the life here and there, and the future trips and hopes for all of us. I try real hard to be the answer man for everything they want and need, dashing off to get information and be the host I promised to be, enjoying the role thoroughly. The three of us pass a Starbucks and a woman who looks just like the lady that tried to help us passes by and goes in to get coffee. Strange but I see a significance in that for some reason. We buy Bacardi and they pick out crisps in another local store and then make our way back to Sofitel, the last thing they need is a dinner destination, I strain my memory but don’t know the area well enough to tell them right off but as we come to their block I see a place I know well, and since they like curry…it’s a hole in one. There is a Jewel of India on the same block about two minutes away from their hotel! I am quite pleased because I have this a couple of towns away and it’s the best around. I leave them then to have a nap before dinner, but not without agreeing to come back again on Friday to guide them around the 40’s and also agree to make reservations for the whole family to have dinner together on Saturday. I give them a group hug and with a spring in my step bound down the street to do just that while I am here close to it. I walk two blocks up and three over to Le Rivage, possibly the most authentically French restaurant in New York, a place I’ve only been to once but was very very good. Now I can saunter back to Penn Station, I hope I didn’t wear out my new friends on their first day in New York. I am knackered as the Brits say, but it’s a good kind of tired, a kind that I hope to feel alot more in the future.
So after leaving Cafe Reggio I head back to Washington Square Park and begin to wander around aimlessly, this is what I do when I don’t have any destinations in mind. I start to get a little warm from the rising temperatures and from walking a long distance so I take my denim jacket off and look for an oasis of cool for a quick beer. Naturally, I find one easily in this city, so I sit and slug at a cold Harp in an air conditioned bar. This seems to be a college hangout, but at this time of day only two young girls are there talking about school. I leave cool and refreshed and continue my walk.
I find a plant vendor on W. Houston St who talks incessantly, not that he isn’t interesting or informative he actually carries on three conversations at once with potential customers! He’s selling Red Maples and also Green Maples, I always wanted one for my garden so I take note where he is and continue my journey. I wander thru a street fair and am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of food and drink and stuff you can buy here roasted corn, lemonade, fresh fruit, crepes, beer, sausage and pepper hero’s, Thai food, t-shirts, handbags, houseplants, replica signs, as well as jewelery and old dishware. There is something for everyone here, but I grow bored looking at so many stalls. I continue walking and people watching, getting very hungry now, and soon I find myself in a Brazilian restaurant.
La Palette Bar and Restaurant is a little piece of South America on Greenwich Ave in the West Village, I am sitting in the open air patio sipping a cold bottle of Stella Artois and trying to cool off, the day has become exceedingly hot and I’ve put miles on my feet. The small courtyard is rustic with slate flooring and cement planters filled with tropical plants and small trees, old wooden benches sit against the walls, which are cracked with age and covered with vines. I am sitting at a granite topped bistro table in a comfortable aluminum chair, to my left a trio of late twenty somethings talk …loudly about many different things, the lone blond girl reminds me of my ex-an annoying, opinionated pain in the neck who knows it all and expects everyone to hang on her every word. She and her two male companions are drinking beer and waiting for food. She says she wants to get out of New York-who doesn’t. She’s not making enough money-who is? She’s still single-who knew! But the minute she leaves-she will miss it here. Duh! We all complain about living here and but stay anyway! Kind of like the jobs we hate but stay for the benefits and bonuses.
I try to tune her out and enjoy my appetizers, a mixed plate of deep fried goodness-beef and herb balls, mashed sweet potato fritters, potato and fish balls all covered in bread crumbs and all crunchy delicious. I think my Doctor would shake her head at me for this, but my cholesterol is low and I’ve walked far today. Then my main course arrives, a simple ham and cheese crepe which was good but not inspired, I could have made just as good at home. The trio has touched on marriage, moving, drinking games, Carmel N.Y. and San Francisco and every other word out of blondies mouth is “awesome”! Next to me on the right is a thirty something couple who focus all their attention on their child, a boy of about five or six with strawberry red hair, they try to keep the kid occupied so he doesn’t fuss, getting the waitress to bring sliced apples to keep him happy while the couple talks and waits for the food.
It’s getting on to six o’clock and the sun is making the courtyard a little stuffy even though it’s hidden from us by the buildings around us which also keep the breezes from coming to cool us. The annoying blond has said “awesome” at least two dozen more times! Dogs are awesome, backyards are awesome, barbeque’s are awesome, I want to punch her in the face, I’ve never heard anyone so unable to keep from talking in my life. The couple on the other side of me get their food, chicken and cream with mashed potatoes for him and Chorizo sausage and marinara over pasta for her, it looks good to me and both seem to be enjoying their food while still managing to spend all their energy on their child. Blondie stops her two male companions from talking and says “OK…Sidenote!” and starts telling them about google maps for her cell phone-now I want to strangle her while saying “AWESOME” over and over again. LOL just kidding I would never do anything like that….I’d hire someone else to! No that’s wrong too. But to continue I order a strong coffee, which I will need to get home and do some artwork tonight, deciding against dessert this time. But my thoughts will be with this girl who (like an annoying commercial you can’t forget) tortured my ears for over an hour… with her plastic personality and sound byte vocabulary.
I walk back to buy myself a Japanese Maple, it’s a real beauty about ten inches high with about a dozen leaves, I walk back the way I came down in the morning. The painter is gone, the railings are finished on 130/132 MacDougal St across from Cafe Reggio and the streets are alive with people on the move and music pours forth from every bar and eatery you pass, people are already starting a long night of revelry and it isn’t even dark yet. It’s so funny how many people see me holding my tree and do a double take, it actually looks like pot to the casual observer, but no on has the guts to question me about it. I quietly chuckle to myself freaking people out all the way home. It’s been a good day.
The Village was changing again…and not for the better. I had walked all the way from Penn Station, it was bright and just starting to get warm now, gone was the cold winter wind that keeps me indoors much of the winter. This is always a special day for me-my first Village walk of 2008, so you can imagine the look of disbelief on my face when I find myself standing holding on to a cyclone fence that surrounds Washington Square Park and finding it a war zone. The Arch for me is ground zero for all things that I’ve come to associate with the Village and it’s Bohemian occupants, the place where it’s beating heart starts and stops. Where on a cold night in December in 1917, the artist Marcel Duchamp along with John Sloan and a couple of female art student friends, made their way to the top of the arch. After sharing wine and cheese while sitting under blankets, with their girlfriends help, they decorate the Arch with balloons (and after waiting for the beat cop to pass) were said to have shot off cap pistols and loudly declared that Greenwich Village was a free and independent state-and then stumbled off drunkenly into the night!
So with a heavy heart after seeing the plans for the reconstruction that wouldn’t be finished until 2009 (which is only phase 1) I walked off to find the one place where I could find peace, Cafe Reggio. Since it opened it’s doors in 1927 the Cafe Reggio has become a Village landmark and is the oldest Cafe still in operation in New York City, scenes from Godfather II were shot here, JFK gave a speech outside its doors once and it has been the scene of numerous gatherings of artists, writers, musicians and poets. Located on MacDougal Street it is where I sit now and enjoy a croissant with confiture (that’s jam-really good jam) and a Latte with orange juice on the side, strangely this is the only thing I ever eat here because I arrive early enough to still want a typical French breakfast and usually I’m on the other side of Manhattan by dinnertime.
I sit and ponder other bad news I picked up along the way, the Union Square Market is going to be made smaller to allow for an eatery to be built and a proposal to demolish the Provincetown Playhouse so that NYU can use the landmark space for some unknown purpose. It’s unbelievable, are they serious? This is where Eugene O’Neil put American theater on the world map as a force to be respected and admired, and now they want to tear it down!
It seemed to me like all the good things were under attack in one way or another. Progress I’d guess you’d call it, but to me it meant I wouldn’t be listening to any street musicians play on a summer evening with the Arch in the background. I wondered where those who found value in that sort of free entertainment would find it now…. A man is painting the decorative iron railings that go up the front of 130/132 MacDougal St, he’s using a long stick roller to get the highest spots even on a ladder, a pretty girl with long dark brown hair in a red shirt-dress and sunglasses walks past- her hair matches the color the painter is using exactly. There is some harmonic balance to the universe, I guess as a painter I feel colors more than others.
But as I sit and enjoy my coffee I also feel a little like an outsider, a permanent tourist here. Someone from the bucolic suburbs who doesn’t fit in. The young men nearby with their rolled up pant legs, calf tatoo’s and Croc wearing sock-less feet make me feel like an aging hipster wannabee. They sit sipping their iced coffee, with unshaven faces and finger styled hair, deep set eyes staring intently from behind dark glasses at cell phones text messaging God only knows… A tour guide leads a bunch of tourists down the sunny tree lined street, they cross W. 3rd St and disappear from view. The painter stretches to reach spots he missed while buses roar by and he goes on-oblivious to the noise, while delivery trucks disturb the peace making drops of fresh vegetables to the busy restaurant lined street, the crates practically thrown to waiting hands which take them below to be processed to feed the hungry mobs who stop and purchase pita pockets, tourists, families, foreigners speaking various languages, college kids who walk by carefully peeling back the foil wrap to eat their hand held lunch, a continual procession of sound and color, snips of conversation heard briefly as people walk by only to be replaced moments later by another and another.
It is all so rich and savory to me to be here despite my momentary discomfort from before, the beautiful girls, cool hipster dudes, an occasional friendly dog sniffs at your feet, I sip the last of my coffee and ask for my check. The painters ladder falls… but he doesn’t. He struggles to get it right again pulling out his shirt tails in the process and I decide to move on, I need to make the most of this day here. I might not be back for a while….I pay my check and gather myself up and start walking down the tree lined street.